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HARDIN COUNTY - A century or more ago railroads meant hopes for growth and dreams for a bustling future in aspiring towns like Eldora.

Now the railroad's is often the quietest district in town.

But the dreaming about rail lines isn't done.

That said, the Iowa RIver Railroad, which runs through Hardin County is looking to salvage its steel inventroy and shed its vacated rail bed. Scenery is the marketable commodity now, rather than any shipping potential for cattle, corn or lumber.
Only a half dozen years ago, the line through Eldora took one last shot at finding a place for itself in the ethanol boom and in moving Hardin County's neverfail corn harvests.

But now, the Iowa River Rail line has made it known it wants to close everything down, remove the steel and divest itself of that long run of rail bed from Steamboat Rock to potentially as far south as Marshalltown.
And some outdoor enthusiasts now think the rail bed could live again as an artery for moving tourism.

Last Monday a group of supporters of a multi use sight seing trail met in Eldora and encouraged those present to lend their support to attempts to secure grants that would presumably cover the cost of purchasing the rail bed and undertaking its conversion.
The dream is to covert the long embankment to a variety of traffic modes, potentially everything from bicycles, to talking, to ATV's, even to equestrian.

But key now is submitting a grant application for funds to make the land purchase. It has to go in the next few weeks.

How much of the trail would be developed is up in the air, but there was talk about seeking assistance for roughly 22 miles.

Right now the rail bed is secure and stable, and word was that the numerous bridges along the way have been judged safe for light traffic of this kind.
It is estimated the project might cost $400,000.

Just out of curiosity, someome asked how that translated to the cost of farmland. At 22 miles and roughly 100 feet wide, it comes to very, very roughly $1,600 an acre.
There are 43,560 square feet to an acre.

Nearly 50 people were in attendance for the Eldora city council chambers. Staffers with the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation helped facilitate the session, and it was said the foundation had already been preparing grant applications should supporters push ahead.
They did solicit shows of support and said they are working under a July 1 deadline for submission. There might be some forgiveness on the date, they indicated.

Responsibility for long term trail maintenance would be one of several critical questions in any development plan, they allowed.

During the meeting's opening presentation, organizers of the session pointed to several established trails around Iowa and Minnesota, touting the tourist potential they generated for the communities through which they passed.
They said the route through Hardin County would have many advantages over and above the examples cited, particularly in terms of the Iowa River Valley's scenic content.

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